Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why I Hate AsianWeek

A free weekly rag out of San Francisco's Chinatown that bills itself as "The Voice of Asian America" caused an uproar this week with a racist piece of juvenalia by a mentally unstable young writer named Kenneth Eng. The title, "I Hate Blacks" couldn't be any plainer. Nor could its first sentence: "Here is a list of reasons why we should discriminate against blacks, starting from the most obvious down to the least obvious:"

The newspaper is owned and published by the Fang Family, who have been corrupt powerbrokers in San Francisco since the Chiang Kai-Shek days. The patriarch, John Fang, died in 1992 but his widow Florence continues the dynasty along with her sons James and Ted, who are the President and the Editor-At-Large of the paper respectively.

This is the same Fang Family that made the sleazy deal with the Hearst Corporation to take over the Examiner if they were paid $66 million to keep up the fiction that there were two daily newspapers in town rather than a monopoly with the Hearst Chronicle. The Hearst Corporation had been threatened by then-mayor Willie Brown, Jr. and City Attorney Louise Renne with antitrust troubles with the Clinton Administration if they didn't play the game their way.

Still, even with this background, it seems more than a bit insane to run a column entitled "Why I Hate Blacks" next to a full-page ad for Wells Fargo, which is on a very public "diversity" crusade these days. This isn't the demented writer's fault, it's the fault of the editor, whose name is Samson Wong.

"Why I Hate Blacks" isn't the only offensive bit in the same issue. There is also a cartoon on the front "Opinion" page that makes fun of Rosie O'Donnell being a Pig, whether because she's a lesbian, a leftist, or fat is not made particularly clear.

Other than the Macy's ad and the Wells Fargo ad, there didn't seem to be much advertising other than a huge "Legal Notices" section, which I believe is through a contract with the City of San Francisco. At yesterday's Board of Supervisors meeting, Aaron Peskin brought up the newspaper for condemnation and directed all city departments to terminate any business they might have with the rag immediately.

Most of the Asian community in San Francisco is embarrassed and horrified by the turn of events. At SFist, Rita Hao starts a story about it with the two sentences: "Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear." (Click here for the whole article.)

Linda, the owner of one of the greatest restaurants in the world, the Hunan on Sacramento between Montgomery and Kearny, repeated Rita's words almost exactly when I showed her the article. "This is really, really bad," she said. "Oh dear."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Telegraph Hill Landslide

A chunk of Telegraph Hill tumbled down onto Broadway and Montgomery Streets at 3:15 AM on Monday night after a good, but not particularly unusual, rainfall.

The Red Cross had jumped into action...

...and a large police camp had set up on Broadway...

...across the street from the Showgirls strip club which had a boulder crash into its backside from the cliff underneath the expensive new condo project.

All the apartment buildings on the west side of Montgomery Street between Broadway and Vallejo had been red-tagged...

...and their many occupants evacuated for at least 24 hours.

At Montgomery and Vallejo, one of Telegraph Hill's many garden staircases extends for half a block.

The views are what keep people paying large sums to live on precarious California hillsides and frankly they're worth it.

455 Vallejo is the large, controversial condo complex that went up sometime between five and ten years ago.

That's the Transamerica Pyramid sticking out from its rooftop.

The building had been red-tagged for 24 hours...

...and there were a pair of pleasant cops at the door telling people they needed to get out emergency supplies...

...and then go elsewhere...

...taking away their poor dogs who didn't look too happy about being evacuated.

A New Music Seance 2

The Other Minds Music Festival's fundraiser, A New Music Seance, took place on Saturday at the Swedenborgian Church in Pacific/Presidio Heights.

San Francisco is filled with tucked away, beautiful little churches from the 19th century that feel like anachronisms, and I wonder how they survive other than renting themselves out for weddings and funerals.

Swedenborg was a brilliant, interesting character, though I'm still unclear why a church formed around him posthumously. According to the church's website (click here):
"The spiritual foundations of the worship practiced within this structure are found in the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). Foremost among his ideas is a central perception that all life is spiritual and all things reveal something essential of the divine. Swedenborg believed the world had entered a new phase of spiritual potential during his own lifetime and that he had been called to the role of revelator."

What's most fascinating are the list of his admirers over the centuries. The website continues:
"As a celebrated scientist-turned-mystic whose extensive writings articulated a new understanding of Christianity, Swedenborg's ideas were championed by American Transcendentalist thinkers (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry James Sr., Bronson Alcott) and English Romanticists (William Blake, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Thomas Carlyle). In this century, Helen Keller, D.T. Suzuki, Jorge Luis Borges and William Butler Yeats are among dozens of significant minds who have drawn explicitly upon Swedenborg's religious insights."

The transcendental vision on Saturday belonged to Charles Amirkhanian who has devoted his life to presenting modern music that's slightly off the beaten track, whether on his decades-long KPFA radio show (which is now hosted by Richard Friedman on KALW) or through his Other Minds Music organization (click here for website) which records and preserves music, and holds an annual festival for composers from around the world.

Saturday's fare consisted of three separate concerts, starting at 2PM with Dane Rudhyar's Opus 1 from 1914, the Prayer, Lament and Death March for piano, and almost ending near 11PM with the world premiere of a "Tombeau for Violin and Piano" written by Ronald Bruce Smith.

About half of the pieces were performed by the incomparable Sarah Cahill, whose pre-Raphaelite beauty, musical brilliance, and magical aura never fail to astonish me. (Click here for her website and performing itinerary.)

The fact that she is a fan of this blog is also incalculably pleasing.

There was also a wonderful violinist, Kate Stenberg, who played a world premiere called "Rippling the Lamp" by Amirkhanian himself that thankfully was an absolutely beautiful piece of music, along with duets for piano-and-violin with the pianist Eva-Maria Zimmermann in music by Hovhaness, Josef Matthias Hauer, Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, and Webern.

Zimmermann also had a chance to shine this year in solo piano pieces by Wladimir Vogel, George Antheil, and William Albright. Her ferocious playing of Antheil's Sonata No. 2 for violin, piano and drums was fun and exciting.

The three concerts were divided evenly between pieces by living and deceased composers, and a number of the former were on hand to hear their own works being played.

The composers and performers stood for a photo-op between concerts in the Swedenborgian Church garden (left to right: Eva-Maria Zimmermann, Ronald Bruce Smith, Phil Collins, Dan Becker, Sarah Cahill, Carl Stone, Kate Stenberg, and Charles Amirkhanian).

The "New Music" world is fairly small and it seems to function much like a loving family (with all the politics, good and bad, that implies) with not much money.

Victoria Shoemaker, for instance, who is the wife of the President of the Other Minds organization, cooked all day in the church kitchen...

...provisioning the performers, composers and stage crew with food and drink...

...culminating in a beautiful Mexican dinner...

...for a large group that even included the widow of Conlon Nancarrow, the recently deceased giant of 20th century music who specialized in fiendishly complex pieces for player piano, four of which were performed during the concerts.

The many highlights of the concert for me included Dane Rudhyar's "Prayer," Wladimir Vogel's "Nature Vivante," Hans Otte's "Das Buch der Klange #10," Frank Martin's "Preludes #7 and #8," Dan Becker's "Don't Make Me Go Back to LA," Ernst Bacon's "The Pig Town Fling," William Albright's "The Sleepwalker's Shuffle," Percy Grainger's "The Immovable Do," and Howard Skempton's "Well, Well, Cornelius."

The wild and funny Antheil Sonata #2 featuring Amirkhanian himself as the drum soloist was the perfect ending to a very long and satisfying day.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rainbow Porn Humanities

The Civic Center was full of rainbows on Thursday, including a major arc over the Asian Art Museum.

Perhaps they were a herald of the goings-on at the Veterans Building to the right...

...where signage sprouted on Friday for a 40th anniversary for the gay porn company, Colt Studios (click here for their website).

According to a well-written article by Wyatt Buchanan in the San Francisco Chronicle, of all places: "In 2003, former Falcon director John Rutherford and his partner Tom Settle bought Colt, which had been struggling, and moved it to San Francisco, where it once again became successful." (Click here for the full article.)

The anniversary party was being held in the second-floor Green Room of the Veterans Building...

...and if the flower arrangements were any indication, no expense was being spared.

Plus, you could be a Colt Model yourself, at least in your own mind.

The best part of the "Chronicle" article was a quote at the end from John Karr, who writes a brilliant column about porn every week for the local gay rag, the Bay Area Reporter.

Karr said he wonders about the impact of porn on the sex lives of average gay men, whether it leads them into excessive fringe and fetish practices. "The very profusion of the gay sex film industry has led to super-performers being developed that do not represent the everyday person and the everyday person thinks that's how he should be acting -- and the circle continues," Karr said, adding, "This is something to view in wonderment, instead of condemnation."

Meanwhile, downstairs, a two-day series of educational lectures on "The Crusades" was being held at the Herbst Theatre by an organization called Humanities West (click here for their website). Now that's the gay porn movie I want to see, with Christians and Muslims and Jews throwing out their blood hatreds in favor of simple love and lust.